The Heroine’s Journey of Manuela Klerkx

What is the thing that I love best about my work? Art is my work, and my work is my life. The best thing about art is that it creates a new look on life, people and love. I have been working in the art world since 1992, first as an employee, and later running my own gallery. I have had the chance to meet a lot of interesting people: they all made me the person I am today. I currently run my own company, Klerkx International Art Management, it provides me with the freedom to do all I love in the art world: scouting new talent, promoting artists, staging creative promotional campaigns, developing digital strategies, working with young collectors.

My idea of perfect happiness: My idea of perfect happiness is to be surrounded by creative and stimulating people, by like-minded souls. I need to be challenged all the time. I recently felt a moment of perfect happiness at the MoMa last summer in New York, together with my husband and our two daughters. I felt complete and serene, surrounded by the art I love most, in the company of the three people I love most dearly.

My greatest fear:Losing my ‘lust for life’, my energy, losing people I love. I have a tendency to get too attached to people and things that make me happy, whereas the meaning of life – as my father would say, a practicing artist and Buddhist – is to let things go. This contradiction is sometimes hard to manage. I live as much as I can in the present but can’t deny that as I grow older, my greatest fear is not being able to accept that all things will come to an end. 

What is the trait you deplore the most in yourself? The fact that I can be overwhelmed by emotions and that I lose myself in them. It can be positive but also exhausting. The right balance is sometimes hard to find. I wish I had myself more under control, emotionally. My husband calls me an ‘Air Biker, which means somebody who lives with his head in the clouds. I have to admit that I love to dream and live a bit outside of daily reality but at the same time I love to be grounded and structured as these are qualities that create balance. I remember reading a quote by somebody saying: I love to live with my head in the air and with my feet in beautiful shoes. I quite liked it!

My greatest extravagance? I can summarize that in three words: MARNI, MARNI and MARNI. Bags, shoes, accessories, it doesn’t matter. I love the spirit of this Italian fashion brand which reflects an authentic, bohemian lifestyle some call ‘shabby chique’. The MARNI style doesn’t fit into the system. The lady who founded it, Consuelo Castiglioni, is a woman in her 50-ties who I really admire for her taste and elegance. She combines humor and subversiveness in the fashion world in a way that I would like to apply to the art world.

On what occasion would I lie? I am a very bad liar and on the rare occasions that I tried, it immediately showed. I want to be transparent myself and I want people to be transparent with me too. I think it is a major quality in life: the possibility to be honest with yourself and with others, ideally I only lie if it is to save somebodies feelings or for a greater cause…

What is the influence of role models in my work and in my life? I love to see the world through the eyes of people I admire for their intelligence, their creativity or their humanity. When I was young those role models were mainly creative and strong men but as I grow older I realize I am getting more and more influenced by powerful and courageous women like Michelle Obama, Vivienne Westwood or Shirin Neshat. I don’t try to imitate them but rather learn from them. They give me strength and positive energy. 

                                                                                                                                                                        What do you dislike the most in your work? I think seeing how much the idea of collecting art is still being associated with money and being wealthy. I am currently collaborating with the Young Collectors Circle in Amsterdam, a platform for new (and often young) art buyers. We try to show them in a playful way how the art world works, and how to start buying art even with a small purse. There are many ways to buy art on and offline, if you buy in a smart way there is a lot to find for a good price

When and where was I the happiest in my work? I love to sell art and to make the artist, the art buyer and myself happy. Selling is like seducing: it feels like you win when you convince somebody to buy a piece by one of your artists. It really makes my day. I was the happiest at LISTE in Basel, the first time they accepted my gallery KLERKX, I think it was in 2008. I had a solo booth in the basement, displaying work by Marijn van Kreij, people just loved it and I sold a lot. Pure bliss.

If I could, what would I change about myself? I always feel as if I have to please people, whereas I admire people who don’t feel that need. I think they are more honest in a way, and surely more independent. If you want to make it in life (privately and professionally) you need to have the courage to live your life as truthfully as possible. The need to please can be an obstacle. 

What is my greatest achievement in work? In the past it was my gallery in Milan and in the present it is my own company, that I run with my husband Oscar van Gelderen, who works as a publisher in daily life and who has been collecting art since the nineties, just as I have been working in the art world since the nineties. We share a mutual vision of art and how to operate in the art world.

The location that most inspires me in my city.  Without any doubt the EYE film museum, which is the only museum open day and night in Amsterdam. I go there to work, to meet people, to see movies, to visit exhibitions and for lovely meals and a good glass of wine. It has a spectacular view over the IJ canal and is situated on the northern side of the city. You can only reach it by ferry (or by car). I adore that part of Amsterdam.

My favorite place to eat and drink in my city? The exquisite Japanese Yamazato restaurant in the Okura hotel in Amsterdam. It serves the authentic Kaiseki cuisine which is partly influenced by the rituals based on the Zen philosophy of minimalism and control. The restaurant was awarded with a Michelin star in 2002. When my husband and I celebrate something special we go there. We love the serene atmosphere and the perfect service and it feels as if we are in a different world.

Who is your greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? Definitely my husband. Let’s put it this way, we are each other’s greatest fan, he sponsors my wardrobe (even buys my clothes!) and we are absolute partners in crime, or as we prefer to call it, soul travelers. We have been working together since the day we met and we are currently busy writing a book together with tips & tricks for new and experienced art buyers. The book will be published in 2017 by Meulenhoff in the Netherlands.

Whom would I like to work with in the future?  I would love to create a big exhibition with the Iranian, New York based artists Icy & Sot. We have been working with them since 2010. I would also love to stage a major exhibition with the greatest living Friesian artist (the northern part of the Netherlands), Sjoerd de Vries.

What project, in the near future, am I looking forward to work on? I am looking forward to working with my friends from the Young Collectors Circle, an Amsterdam based platform that specializes in informing, motivating and stimulating a new generation of art buyers. The YCC is very active on social media and organizes lots of events with guest speakers and hosts guided visits to art fairs and galleries in order to support young art buyers on their cultural journey. We try to make the art world more accessible for them. After being a successful startup for about two years the YCC was officially launched two days ago with a fabulous party!

How can we contact you? It is easy to contact me as I am very active on social media (FB, Twitter and Instagram) and you can visit my website for more background information about my activities. 

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